The bench said the claim of being a juvenile was not taken initially during trial in the Nirbhaya case. (Photo Credit: File)
The Supreme Court Monday rejected the plea of a death row convict in the Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case challenging the Delhi High Court order, which had dismissed his claim of being a juvenile at the time of the offence. A bench comprising Justices R Banumathi, Ashok Bushan, and AS Bopanna dismissed the plea of convict Pawan Kumar Gupta and upheld the Delhi High Court verdict. The death-row convict in the Nirbhaya case had moved the top court on Friday.
Pawan Gupta had also sought a direction restraining the authorities from executing the death penalty, scheduled for February 1. The bench said the claim of being a juvenile was not taken initially during trial in the Nirbhaya case. However, Gupta’s lawyer contended that it was taken as a ‘mitigating circumstance’ at the time of sentencing in the case.
Seeking to be declared a juvenile at the time of occurrence of the incident, Pawan had alleged that his ossification test was not conducted by the investigating officers and claimed benefit under the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act. He had said in his plea that the provision of section 7A of JJ Act lays down that a claim of juvenility may be taken before any court and it shall be recognised at any stage, even after final disposal of the case. Pawan sought that the concerned authority be directed to conduct his ossification test to ascertain his claim of juvenility.
A 23-year-old physiotherapy intern was gang-raped and savagely assaulted on the night of December 16, 2012, in a moving bus in South Delhi. She died of her injuries a fortnight later in a Singapore hospital. Six people—Mukesh Singh, Vinay Sharma, Akshay Kumar Singh, Pawan Gupta, Ram Singh and a juvenile—were named as accused.
The trial of the five adult men began in a special fast-track court in March 2013. The prime accused, Ram Singh, allegedly committed suicide by hanging himself in Tihar jail days after the trial began. The juvenile, who was said to be the most brutal of the attackers, was put in a correctional home for three years.
He was released in 2015 and sent to an undisclosed location amid concerns over a threat to his life. The juvenile, when released, was 20 years old. Mukesh, Vinay, Akshay and Pawan were convicted and sentenced to death in September 2013.